"That God places prominently in our nation's history does not create an Establishment Clause problem requiring curettage and disinfectant of Johnson's classroom walls. It is a matter of historical fact that our institutions and government actors have in past and present times given place to a supreme God." - Judge Robert T. Benitez
For the last 25 years, math teacher Bradley Johnson has had a banner on the wall of his classroom measuring 7 feet by 2 feet, on which are inscribed the words "In God We Trust," "One Nation Under God," "God Bless America" and "God Shed His Grace On Thee." He has had a second banner for 17 years that quotes the Declaration of Independence by including the phrase, "All Men Are Created Equal, They Are Endowed By Their Creator."
Even though 4,000 students have passed through Johnson's classroom without a single complaint in 25 years, in January, Westview High School principal Dawn Kastner told him his banners were no longer permissible because they convey a Judeo-Christian perspective.
Right. Now I have heard everything - trying to ban a quote from The Declaration of Independence from a classroom. And this from a school district that allows other teachers to hang Buddhist, Islamic, and Tibetan prayer messages on their classroom walls.
The Thomas More Law Center sued on Johnson's behalf. The school district fought to have the suit dismissed, on the incredible grounds that "because Johnson was a teacher, he had no First Amendment protections in his classroom."
Only in California.
But this time, a judge got it right! Last week, Judge Robert Benitez strongly disgreed with the school district's argument, saying that it amounted to to saying that Johnson has no free speech rights at all because he is a government employee. He even quoted (the audacity!) a 1952 Supreme Court ruling, Zorach v. Clauson: "We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being."
This is a welcome ruling. While it doesn't specifically mention homeschooling, the events that prompted the lawsuit are not as few and far between as we would like to think, and are indicative of an increasing hostility on the part of the educational system to God or any suggestion that He had a hand in the blessing of our land.
Last month I posted several times in this blog about the suit pitting the University of California against Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murietta. The ruling in that case was in favor of the university.
One of the issues that was debated in the case was the use of texts that attributed historical events to divine providence.
I received several excellent comments on that one, including a very insightful one by "Mary", who is affiliated with the University. She actually presented a clear explanation of the university's position and how the particular restrictions on curriculum content in this case did not actually interfere with either Calvary Chapel's right or ability to teach alternative worldviews, or Calvary students' ability to take the required courses and be accepted into UC schools. I had to concede that the regulations did not discriminate against Christian students.
But she didn't seem to ever grasp my point about the Judeo-Christian worldview being increasingly under attack by those in the educational system, or my concern that the California ruling, which today is directed at specific students and their specific high school texts, could ultimately morph into some kind of monster statute that would penalize all Christian high schoolers, and Christian home schoolers seeking to enter institutions of higher learning in California. People who believe that "God created..." or "God shed His grace on Thee..." are currently marginalized, prohibited from attributing their academic success to Him in valedictory speeches, and taught that it is okay for them to believe that God created the heavens and the earth or that He governs in the affairs of men, as long as they understand that the "real truth" is what the secular schools teach instead.
This Westview High School case result is good news. But that the case existed in the first place is further evidence that my concerns about our worldview being under attack are not unfounded.
Utterly Off Topic Wednesday will actually be tomorrow, as I remember September 11.
If you missed the excitement, the other posts in the series about Calvary Chapel and UC are located below: